Notes from Journalism and Religion Conference in Africa
By Amb. Mussie Hailu
Accra, July 2016 – This is a note that I want to share with you on the conference I took part in on the theme of “Journalism and Religion in Africa” held in Accra, Ghana, on July 28-29, 2016. The conference also reflected on the agenda of “Reporting on Religion and Spirituality in Africa.”
The conference was organized by the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) and hosted by the Institute of African Studies of Ghana University. It brought together journalists and scholars from Africa primarily designed for those covering religion.
The meeting was designed to allow participants to share resources, build relationships, and share practical tools necessary to meet the highest standards of reporting on issues of religion and spirituality in Africa. It explored such topics as inter-religious dialogue; covering extremism and conflict; and how religious information sources deal with media outlets, journalists and religious minorities in Africa.
This was the first such event to be organized in Africa. Since IARJ’s founding in 2012, similar conferences have been held in Bellagio (Italy), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), London, Boston (Massachusetts), Brisbane (Australia), and Buenos Aires (Argentina).
I was one of the panelists, and during my presentation on interfaith peace-building work in Africa, I highlighted the need to enhance working partnerships among journalists, faith-based and interfaith organizations, and African policymakers in order to promote interfaith harmony, building trust and understanding. These steps are necessary to collectively secure peace and addressing the issue of countering violent extremism and radicalization.
After two days of reflection, deep discussions, deliberations, sharing experiences, and recognizing the role of media in promoting inter- and intra-faith dialogue for peaceful coexistence, harmony and understanding and the role of journalists in addressing the issue of violent extremism and radicalization in Africa, the participants agreed:
- To promote and build better standards for religion coverage in Africa.
- To develop ethical conduct for Journalists who are covering religious issues.
- To share accurate information and pay due care while writing on religion
and to do their best to promote mutual respect.
- Acknowledge the role of journalists to promote religious harmony, peace and the dignity of all individuals as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- To strengthen excellent reporting on religious issues to avert religious conflict and misunderstanding.
- To refrain from writing reports and articles which provoke tension and conflict among followers of different religions.
- To prevent and combat violent extremism and hate speech in Africa.
- To promote partnership with faith-based, interfaith organizations and policy makers.
IARJ is a global network of journalists promoting excellence in the coverage of religion and spirituality. It provides services and resources to strengthen and support the work of its members. It engages media leaders, educational institutions and communities on the importance of accurate, balanced, and ethical religion coverage to foster understanding.
The goals and objectives of IARJ are:
- To encourage religion reporting and expand the global network of journalists who report on religion.
- To foster cross-border reporting and the establishment of local and regional cooperation.
- To enhance the skills involved in covering religion news stories through the development of religion data resources, industry training, ethical guidelines, meetings and dialogues and through partnerships with related organizations.
- To support journalists who are persecuted in the line of covering religion.
- To promote excellence, education and innovation through scholarships, fellowships, grants and prizes.